Iona: The now infamous word that invoked the wrath of fans and pundits alike on Selection Sunday 2012. For reasons that may always remain unknown, the NCAA selection committee awarded an at-large bid to this year's Dance to Iona rather than Drexel, even though the Dragons, by all indications, were more qualified.
The Gaels are one of those teams where, after a cursory look at their record and their stats, you don't really understand why they made the tournament at all. Iona finished first in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference regular season standings, but that's about the only redeeming thing it did this year.
Among the not-so-redeeming things: The Gaels bowed out of the MAAC semifinals against Fairfield. They didn't win a single game against an RPI top-50 team this year. The best team they beat was St. Joe's. Their resume features losses to 10-22 Hofstra and 14-17 Siena.
And then there's Drexel, one of the cruelest snubs of all this year. The Dragons also won their regular-season title outright, but they dropped a 59-56 contest to tournament-bound VCU in the finals of the Colonial Athletic Association tournament. (For those of you keeping score, that's a step farther than the Gaels made it in their conference tournament.)
Drexel finished the regular season 27-6 and won 19 of its last 20 games, usually a surefire way to catch the committee's attention. The Dragons did, however, have a weak non-conference schedule—perhaps the factor that did them in.
When questioned after CBS's bracket reveal, one of the selection committee members insisted that he and his colleagues did not compare Drexel and Iona head-to-head and that, in fact, a comparison was irrelevant and unnecessary.
But come on. They're both mid-majors. They both won their leagues but failed in their conference tournaments. Neither of them is particularly impressive as far as strength of schedule, and Drexel, unlike Iona, didn't lose a single game to an under-.500 team—never mind two of them.
The Gaels and the Dragons were incredibly comparable in 2011-12, and it's a given that only one of them should have made it to the Big Dance. It's just a shame that the selection committee picked incorrectly.